South Africa

  • Communications and Infrastructure
  • Foreign Exchange
  • Relaxation of Exchange Control
  • Trade General
  • Documentation
  • Other Documentation
  • Marking of Goods and Packages

Communications and Infrastructure

Location and Size

  • South Africa became a Republic on 31 May 1961.
  • It is situated at the southern tip of Africa.
  • The Republic of South Africa borders Namibia to the north-west, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the north, Mozambique to the northeast and Swaziland to the east. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa.
  • The west coast borders the South Atlantic ocean while the eastern coastline runs along the Indian ocean.
  • The land area is ± 1,219,912 square kms.
  • South Africa is divided into 9 provinces, namely:

– The Northern Province

– Kwazulu/Natal

– Mpumalanga

– Gauteng

– The North West Province

– The Western Cape

– The Northern Cape

– The Eastern Cape

  • The Free State

Principal Commercial Centres


  • Business, financial and industrial centre.
  • Vaal Triangle – manufacturing.
  • The East, West – primarily mining.
  • Central Rand – manufacturing and finance.


  • Administrative capital.
  • Government services, transport and related industries.

North West:

  • Klerksdorp, Orkney and Stilfontein are important centres of gold and uranium production and heavy industry.
  • Industry also exists at Brits, Vryburg and Rustenburg.

Eastern Cape:

  • Port Elizabeth and East London are the two core cities, having developed around their respective harbours, which handle the exports of agricultural products and import of manufactured goods.

Free State:

  • Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.
  • This region is recognised as the country’s granary and an important mining region.
  • Welkom is the heart of the goldfields.

Kwazulu / Natal:

  • Richards Bay coal terminal moves coal to international destinations.


  • Witbank is the centre of the coal mining industry.
  • Standerton is known for its dairy industry.
  • Piet Retief produces tropical fruit and sugar.
  • Ermelo is known for wool.
  • Barberton is a gold producing area.
  • Sabie is in the heartland of the timber industry.

Northern Cape:

  • Kimberley is the diamond capital of the world.
  • Okiep and Sishen have mining industries.

Northern Province:

  • Pietersburg has considerable industry from engineering to brickwork’s.

Western Cape:

  • Cape Town is the Legislative capital.
  • Cape Town is a major centre for commerce, industry, manufacturing and agriculture.

Main Economic Activities

  • Economic growth remains slow and employment remains stagnant. In the post-apartheid era, the government has focused on controlling the deficit while striving to step up spending on social programs to combat inequality. The central bank has used tight macro-economic policies to control inflation.
    • Mining:
      • The most important export minerals are gold, coal, diamonds, iron-ore, platinum, copper, manganese, chromium and uranium.
      • South Africa is the world’s main supplier of manganese, gold, vanadium, ferrochromium, alumino-silicates and chrome ore, the second most important supplier of platinum group metals, vermiculite, zirconium, titanium, antimony and asbestos, and the third most important supplier of diamonds and uranium.


      • Manufacturing is dominated by food processing, the production of chemicals, iron and steel, metal products and machinery.
      • Other important sub-sectors including beverages, electric machinery, motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts, textiles, metalworking and fertilisers.
      • Manufacture of wood and paper products is increasing.


      • Major products are poultry, maize, beef, sugar cane, fruit – deciduous, citrus and subtropical, and vegetables.
      • Other important products are eggs, flowers, mohair, pig-rearing, corn, wheat, potatoes, tobacco, wool, poultry, milk and dried fruit.


      • Direct dialling to South Africa is available (international access code +27) followed by area code and then subscriber’s telephone number. Outside South Africa the initial zero of the area code is omitted:

      Gauteng 11

      Durban 31

      Pretoria 12

      East London 43

      Cape Town 21

      Bloemfontein 51

      Port Elizabeth 41

      Gordons Bay 24

      • There is a rapidly expanding cellular telephone network.
      • Telex, faxes and electronic facilities are available.
      • South Africa has a sophisticated communications network.
      • Internet users are increasing in South Africa.
      • Phone cards are available.

      Weights and Measures

      The metric system is used.


      • South Africa’s economy is a relatively small one by world standards (0.04% of world GDP).
      • South Africa has a sophisticated infrastructure, and is located along the world’s trade routes, providing easy access to all major markets.
      • There is a variety of radio stations, magazines and newspapers in South Africa.
      • Medical services in South Africa are readily available and competent.
      • South Africa caters for most religious denominations.
      • Tourism in South Africa is developing and has significant potential.
      • Taxis, buses and car hire are available.
      • Most of South Africa experiences summer rainfall, but in the south-western Cape winter rainfall occurs.
      • South Africa has a very healthy and invigorating climate.
      • Driving is on the left hand side of the road.
      • A valid international driver’s licence is required and it is necessary to have a minimum of 5 years driving experience and for the applicant to be older than 25 years of age.
      • Rail and air transport run between towns and cities.
      • GDP % p.a. in real terms: 1.7 (1997), 2.0 (1998).
      • Private consumption expenditure % p.a. in real terms: 2.0 (1997), 2.1 (1998).
      • Government consumption expenditure % p.a. in real terms: 7.1 (1997), 1.1 (1998).
      • Gross domestic fixed investment % p.a. in real terms: 3.5 (1997), 4.0 (1998).

      Foreign Exchange

      • Strict exchange controls exist for residents of the Republic.
      • The Reserve Bank, through the authorised dealers, relaxes or tightens its controls as economic conditions change.
      • Foreigners can freely transfer funds into South Africa for investment purposes.
      • Traveller’s cheques and foreign currency notes of all major currencies can be exchanged at any commercial bank.
      • Most major credit cards are accepted.
      • Participation in the foreign exchange market is restricted to a number of authorised foreign exchange dealers.

      Relaxation of Exchange Control

      • The financial rand was abolished in March 1995.
      • Current account payments and receipts are generally unrestricted.
      • No capital controls are applied to non-residents.
      • Authorised dealers may authorise the transfer of up to a total amount of R500 000 per private individual resident in South Africa, for investment purposes abroad.
      • Corporations have been allowed to make increasingly large offshore investments, and to raise foreign capital against their domestic balance sheets.
      • Institutions have been allowed to participate in asset swaps and to invest a proportion of their earnings offshore.
      • Subsequent reforms have been announced during the course of last year, namely:
        • the removal of controls on the level of foreign exchange holdings by Authorised Dealers
        • the licensing of foreign exchange bureaux
      • The government will seek to ensure that the lifting of the few remaining restrictions occurs without placing undue pressure on the balance of payments. This year’s changes are intended to:
        • further lift the limits on the activities of individuals, corporations and financial institutions
        • strengthen South Africa’s commitment to the SADC region through measures designed to facilitate regional capital market integration
      • The following reforms, which are described in detail below are designed to play a major role in encouraging and supporting regional development:
        • more favourable treatment of investment in the region through substantially higher direct investment allowances and portfolio allowances
        • permission for the issue of SADC Depository Receipts in South Africa for companies listed elsewhere in the region
        • permission for firms to list on the JSE to raise capital for projects anywhere within the region, subject to the current investment limit applicable to SADC investments and any other requirements set down by the Reserve Bank

      Trade General

      • Certain goods imported into South Africa require an import permit, which may be obtained from the Director of Imports and Exports Control.
      • The list of goods requiring import permits is specified each year in the annual Import Control Program.
      • Permits are valid for imports from any country.
      • Foreign Trade Zones: No Foreign Trade Zones or Free Ports are established in South Africa.
      • South Africa uses the Harmonised System of Classification.
      • Samples are dutiable unless they are cut samples of cloth, leather, linoleum and wallpaper in book form and not for distribution as advertising matter. Samples that have no commercial value because of mutilation in some way are also allowed duty-free access.
      • The South African Government has viewed countertrade as a second-best alternative to be engaged in only when normal trade cannot be conducted.
      • Bonded warehouses are available at various points of entry.
      • South African banks can accommodate all international transactions and are situated throughout the country.
      • General rebates of duty are available for specific situations, and duties may be rebated on goods on re-export.
      • The Reserve Bank plays a pivotal role in the economic and financial sectors.
      • Some imports may require permission from the Department of Agriculture, Health or Environment Affairs.
      • Specific excise taxes are levied on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, tobacco and tobacco products, mineral waters, some petroleum products and motor vehicles.
    • South Africa is an adherent to the Customs Valuation Agreement negotiated under GATT/WTO. The dutiable value of goods imported into South Africa is calculated on the F.O.B. price in the country of export.
  • In conformance with its WTO commitments, South Africa has lifted import surcharges.
  • Credit and payment conditions:

Usual terms: Letter of credit terms are recommended for new transaction. Minimum credit terms in use-open accounts. Open accounts are two thirds of all transactions. Usual credit terms of 60 to 120 days apply.Transfer situation: Local currency delays of up to one month reported. Foreign exchange bank delays average up to one month. The import cover is currently 2.2 months


Bill of Lading

For customs purposes in South Africa, one negotiable and two non-negotiable copies of the Bill of Lading are required. The bill of lading may be made out either “straight” or “to order”.

Certificate of Origin

A declaration of Origin Form DA59 is to be used in cases where a rate of duty lower than the general rate is claimed and, also, for goods liable to anti-dumping or countervailing duty.

It is a prescribed form with stipulated format, size and content.

This form does not require Chamber of Commerce certification. One original signed copy of the form must be attached to the original commercial invoice covering goods which require such a declaration.

Commercial Invoice

No prescribed form. Four copies and one original are required. Suppliers must give in their invoices all data necessary for the importer to make a valid entry and for the South African customs to determine value for duty purposes.

Invoices from suppliers will not be accepted as satisfying the requirements of the customs regulations unless they state, in addition to any proprietary or trade name of the goods a full description of their nature and characteristics together with such particulars as are required to assess the import duty and to compile statistics.

Import Licenses

All goods specified in the Import Control Regulations require an import permit. Imports which contravene import control requirements are subject to seizure, therefore, before shipping goods to SA exporters must make certain that the importer has obtained the correct import permit. Import permits are only issued to registered importers.

Insurance Certificate

One copy of the certificate is required. Follow the importer’s and/or insurance company’s instructions in other matters.

Packing List

3 copies are required. Data contained in this document should agree with that in other documents.

Permits and Visas

  • Valid passports are required.
  • Enquiries can be directed to South African diplomatic representatives abroad or the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria.

Pro-forma Invoice

May be requested by the importer as the first step in negotiating an import contract.

Other Documentation

  • Phytosanitary certificate is required for shipments of living plants, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables. Importers in S. A., in addition, must obtain an entry permit in advance of shipment for any item covered by the pertinent regulations in S.A.
  • Special regulations are required for the importation of lard, bacon, ham, hides and skins, sausage casings, animal hair and bristles, and honey and products containing honey.

Marking of Goods and Packages

  • All goods shipped to S.A. must conform with the metric International System of Limits (S.I.).
  • Packages should bear the consignee’s mark, including port mark, and they should be numbered unless the shipment is such that the contents of the packages can be readily identified without numbers.
  • Special marking regulations are required for textile goods containing sheep’s wool.
  • Special marking regulations are also required for potentially harmful drugs and for food.
  • Labels should be in English or Afrikaans; some items may require both languages.
  • Packaging made from natural materials and fibres must be accompanied by an official certificate stating that the material has been fumigated.

Shaun Bakamoso

Greetings. I'm Shaun Bakamoso, and I'm thrilled to be your guide through the dynamic world of business news in South Africa here at With a passion for staying informed and a keen interest in the ever-evolving landscape of business, I've dedicated myself to providing you with timely, insightful, and comprehensive coverage of the latest developments impacting the South African economy. / Instagram